Legends of Double Bass in Jazz ‘- News, reviews, articles and commentary from the London jazz scene and beyond
Walking the Changes: Legends of the Double Bass in Jazz
(Documentary film directed and produced by Nick Wells. Review by Mary James)
A labor of love, almost by definition, takes a long time to come to fruition. Director Nick wells first saw Dave Holland at the age of 16 and immediately fell in love with the bass. Years later, he interviewed his hero, gave up his plan to write an article about Holland, and instead devoted his savings to making a film. The result is a 70-minute documentary Walking the Bass: Legends of the Double Bass in Jazz which appeared online via a boost from a Kickstarter campaign.
The film features twenty bass players and people associated with the instrument who talk about their lives, their influences and their techniques (list below). They all speak directly to the camera. There is no narrator to walk us through the film, whether onscreen or offscreen, unless you count John goldsby that appears throughout the film, subtly shifting attention from idea to idea, legend to legend. In the opening minutes of the film, we walk through the last 100 years of double bass in jazz and it is immediately evident how much today’s bassists owe to a few landmark figures such as Jimmy Blanton, Oscar Pettiford and Ray Brown, how successful such as Bob Haggart’s “Big Noise from Winnetka” of 1938 paved the way for bassists to move from a supporting role to that of allowing bass to be at the forefront of a band, operating bassists. sophisticated ideas on a bass.
There are a lot of great anecdotes that sum up a lifetime’s work on bass. Ron Carter says “Every night is a chance to play great music. Do not joke. Christian McBride at the age of 16, trying and failing to sound like Ron Carter, then seeing Ray Brown up close at the Blue Note, feeling the same kind of propulsion he felt when he heard funk, and thinking “Oh, c ‘that’s how it’s supposed to be done. “
It’s not just lyrics, there are 4 short and captivating solo performances (from Larry Grenadier, Phil palombi, Jasper hiby and Jean Patitucci ), each beautifully lit. The sight of Palombi playing Gloria’s step in the Village Vanguard, on Scott LaFaro’s 1825 Abraham Prescott double bass, the same bass he used in Sunday at Village Vanguard, is captivating and moving, just like the story of how this bass was acquired by LaFaro, to become his perfect instrument and was restored after the fatal accident.
The places where people play or talk are places that immediately make you nostalgic for live music – the Village Vanguard, Pizza Express Soho, Wigmore Hall. There are airy clips from archival footage, shots of wet sidewalks, the New York subway, Ronnie’s signage at night, close-ups of hands. But what will perhaps strike the viewer the most is how extraordinarily humble each of these great artists is. Dave Holland recounts how much space he was given by Miles Davis to interact with the soloists, going beyond a supporting role to comment on the music. But one night, Miles said to him “Dave, you know you are a bass player”. And at that point, in those few words, Holland saw a lifetime’s work in balancing the supporting role with that of nurturing the music. As Katie thiroux reflects “Playing four notes in one measure simply and beautifully is a challenge.” This film will help us appreciate it.
The credits roll as Patitucci and Grenadier improvise a short ethereal piece using bows, after which they smile, laugh and kiss. It’s a warm and loving, beautifully paced and edited film that will inspire you to dust off the albums you haven’t listened to in a long time and you will listen with rekindled enthusiasm and awe for all that has been done in this performance. This labor of love paid off.
“Walking the Changes: Legends of Double Bass in Jazz” was released in February 2021 and is available to watch on Vimeo.
Chris Minh Doky
Connect: Support the changes on Vimeo
Categories: Film review